New York Negro Ballet
Ronald Frazer* was a member of the New York Negro Ballet and Norwegian Operaballetten. He performed throughout the US, Norway, Sweden, and Germany.
Frazer performed as a “solo dancer” in a 1955 production of Aida with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The same year, he played Pluto, a dancing role, in Il ballo delle ingrate (Masque) with the company.
In 1963, Frazer was hired by the Norwegian Operaballetten (now called Nasjonalballetten); his debut performance with the company was on September 19 of that year.
Frazer appeared in a piece by Walter Nicks for Stockholm’s Jazzbalett 64 at the Odéonteatern, which premiered on July 7, 1964. At the time, Nicks was involved with the University of Stockholm and the Swedish Ballet and was director at Statens Dansskola.
In his Elements of Classical Ballet Technique as Practiced in the School of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Karel Shook listed Frazer as a dancer who “did not perform as [a] ballet [dancer] per se, but who has classical technique and the elegance and carriage that go with it,” though Frazer did in fact perform ballet.
Frazer’s friend Kenneth Scott (star of The Wiz) called Elma Lewis (of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in Boston) to ask for financial help so that Frazer could travel to Germany, as he had an offer to join Cologne Ballet but did not have the means to get there.** Lewis then asked Donald Sneed for a loan, which he gave immediately. This act of generosity on the part of Frazer’s friend and connections meant Frazer became the first Black man with the Cologne Ballet (Russell 178).
Kenneth Scott claimed that Frazer was the only “black American buried in the cemetery [in Germany], with Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach,” though this has not been verified and Beethoven and Brahms were both buried in Vienna, Austria (Russell 178).
*Sources have written Frazer’s first and last name in various ways. We have used “Ronald Frazer” based on records from the National Library of Norway.
**Note that there is no evidence of a company by the name of “Cologne Ballet.”
Dancing Many Drums: Excavations In African American Dance, Thomas F. Defrantz
Black Genius: Inspirational Portraits of African-American Leaders, by Dick Russell
1955 Season, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Gun Larsson and Ronnie Frazier [sic] in a ballet by Walter Nicks for Jazz Ballet 64 (photo)
Walter Nicks Papers, The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts
Shook, Karel. Elements of Classical Ballet Technique: As Practiced in the School of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Dance Books, 1978.
Bergmo, Wenche Auli. “VS: [Spesiallesesalen] VS: Possible former dancer: Ronald Frazier.” Received by Madeline Crawford, 13 Apr. 2021.
Ward Fleming founds Ballet Americana/New York Negro Ballet, MoBBallet
The Modern Dance: Seven Statements of Belief